With the legalization of cannabis last fall, many enthusiasts were biting at the chance to open their own retail store in Yellowknife.
The GNWT has not made the process easy with its highly detailed application process, but few were as prepared as John Maduke and Luke Wood.
Wood, a lifelong Yellowknifer and business owner, saw an opportunity for a new business when legalization was in the works and teamed up with his friend since
kindergarten, Maduke to run what would be come ReLeaf.
The idea was simple: once private cannabis retail was an option, the store would sell cannabis and accessories.
“We wanted to hit the ground running,” said Wood. “We wanted our application in and the store up and running at the same time so we could start selling as soon as the licence is approved.”
Wood said the GNWT had initially planned to be giving out licences on April 17, around the time of ReLeaf’s grand opening at 5123 51 St. in the same building as complex as Thornton’s restaurant.
But that licence never materialized.
“From what I understand, 28 people have applied for a licence, but only one is going to be given out,” said Wood.
Though nothing is certain at the moment, the pair expect to hear about the status of their licence by the end of this year.
“We’ve completed the lengthy 700-page application and submitted our financial records for review,” said Wood.
The pair said they are willing and able to follow any stipulations set out by the government to obtain a licence.
Currently, only one retailer in Yellowknife that can sell cannabis is the uptown Liquor Shop, acting as a direct retailer for the NWT Liquor Control Commission.
So, in the meantime, ReLeaf will be nailing down what other kinds of products their clients are interested in.
“We have everything from bongs to papers to pipes and vapourizers,” said Maduke.
“We make it a point to listen to our customers and find out what they are looking for and try to carry that. It’s been a learning process.”
In addition to listening to their customers — and Maduke says they have new ones walking through the door every day — the pair research accessories by attending trade shows.
“When it comes to what is coming next in the cannabis business, you look to the south,” said Wood.
“Right now vapourizer pens with high quality shatter (a cannabis concentrate) are very popular and will likely be the next big thing up here,” said Wood.
With a bright, clean and airy floor space, ReLeaf is looking to break stereotypes of dark and dingy head shops of the past.
“We want to appeal to a professional clientele and provide high quality service and products,” said Maduke.
ReLeaf also specializes in cannabis growing accessories such as LED lights, nutrients, fans, air filters and growing tents.
They pair said they want to create a welcome place to hang out with knowledgeable “budtenders” selling product, accessories and also coffee and cold drinks.
But for the time being, the pair is only selling accessories.
“Right now we’re like a liquor store without liquor,” said Wood. “We’re just selling mix and red solo cups.”
According to Wood, the business model was never intended to be for only accessories and it can hold out without a licence, but only for a time.
“Realistically, if we don’t get the licence, we will be shutting the doors on ReLeaf,” said Wood.